Oct 3, 2014

GAC Chemical's Water Pollution Waterloo?

For Immediate release

SEARSPORT.  While MDEP has announced that it is pondering a GAC pollution pardon, Penobscot Bay environmental and seafood advocates
 hold talks with federal EPA officials on 10am Friday October 3rd over the acid plumes visibly leaving GAC Chemical's property on Stockton Harbor.

Activists say  a thorough and comprehensive cleanup  plan must be agreed to by the bay's fishery and conservation communities  and the state before immunity is granted to polluter GAC Chemical

PRESENT SITUATION State and federal officials are at cross purposes over what to do  about chronic sulfuric acid spiller/leaker GAC Chemical Corp and half century of discharges into extensive tidal flats  of the southwestern corner of Stockton Harbor.

EPA officials say their hands are tied by Maine DEP's refusal to allow them   to examine the plume-beribboned site in Searsport, a semi-enclosed pocket cove  created by construction of the Sears Island Causeway  which created a barrier between Stockton Harbor and Searsport Harbor, and a mitigation sandbar that separates the pocket cove from the rest of the harbor  much of the time.

While the federal agency marks time, the state is  working out a deal with GAC. They have finally opened negotiations on a voluntary cleanup of the abandoned sulfuric acid plant perched atop the tip of Kidder Point.

This after 15 years of ignoring calls to organize a  Voluntary Response Action Plan for the site.  Late last week Maine DEP pollution cleanup official Nick Hodgkins told Friends of Penobscot Bay that the agency recently held talks with the company about remediating its abandoned sulfuric acid plant and adjacent wastes.

Hodgkins said the company is expected to present DEP with a preliminary plan in November.  The VRAP deal would  pardon GAC  for  discharging sulfuric acid and other wastes into Stockton Harbor in violation of Maine's  pollution laws.

The Friends of Penobscot Bay are insisting that under VRAP's decision matrix, Maine DEP needs to incorporate "Tier III" extensive community review of  GAC's  cleanup plan. Under Tier III  the community has a say in the extent of  cleanup  the company must perform. More about the Matrix

FOPB executive director  Ron Huber said that the people who fish, clam, birdwatch and beachcomb there want the cleanup as complete as possible.

"Unless they get to put their two cents in," Huber said, "the state could approve a  token cosmetic cleanup that doesn't stop the pollution of the harbor, nor remove the waste already tainting a portion of the flats.

That's not going to happen, he said.

This won't be easy for DEP. .  "GAC Chemical's CEO David Colter and Governor Lepage  are close acquaintances,"  he  noted. "The governor  just gave GAC Chemical a 'Business Excellence' award for a successful trade mission.  But these don't absolve GAC  of accountability for the decades of acid waste discharges from their property."

"True Business Excellence includes GAC dealing with its legacy wastes" Huber said. "If GAC will stop beating the bay, we will give them an Environmental Excellence award."

Historic Pollution Well Documented
Activists contend the state's own documents show that between 1940 and 1970,  large amounts of waste from fertilizer and alum manufacturing operations  were dumped into wooden containment cells along the company-  owned shoreline  along Kidder Point.

The records also detail numerous acid spills large and small that have gone gone directly into those collapsing containment cells.

"Their 1980s acid spill maps show unlawfully low pHs in the same vicinity that we citizen scientists and  a university professor detected last  year." said Ron Huber  of Friends of Penobscot Bay. This is  a chronic problem that is not going to fix itself.  EPA knows it. DEP knows it. GAC has finally admitted that it too knows it."

Further, the group says,  federally owned flats and beaches across the pocket cove from GAC Chemical  are being impacted by  the highly acidic plumes that  emanate from beneath the abandoned sulfuric acid facility  and travel across  that pocket cove.  They say that  EPA has no choice but to protect "their" property from the GAC pollution.

"GAC has pulled the trigger," said Ron Huber of Friends of Penobscot Bay. "Uncle Sam can try to pretend GAC missed, but that red fluid leaking out and across the people's clamflats there tells a different story

A number of hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) have been identified by SPECIATE as being present in the phosphate manufacturing process. Some HAPs identified include hexane, methyl alcohol, formaldehyde, methyl
ethyl ketone, benzene, toluene, and styrene. Heavy metals such as lead and mercury are present in the phosphate rock. The phosphate rock is mildly radioactive due to the presence of some radionuclides.
No emission factors are included for these HAPs, heavy metals, or radionuclides due to the lack of sufficient data.

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